Opinion writer

The emerging Beltway wisdom on John Boehner’s abrupt resignation is that it could make things even more chaotic as we barrel towards a government shutdown. Hard-right lawmakers are “emboldened,” and some GOP presidential candidates are urging GOP Congressional leaders (including whoever replaces Boehner) to stand firm in using government funding as leverage to defund Planned Parenthood. Helpfully, the deadlines for long-term funding and the debt ceiling are looming just when the GOP primaries really heat up.

And yet, a new Quinnipiac poll finds that a solid majority of Republican voters does not want a government shutdown:

Would you support or oppose shutting down the government over differences about federal government funding to Planned Parenthood?

Republicans oppose this by 56-36. Americans overall oppose it by 69-23. And this comes despite the fact that Republicans overwhelmingly support defunding Planned Parenthood, by 71-25 (in contrast with overall Americans, who oppose defunding the group by 52-41). Meanwhile, a recent CNN poll found that a plurality of Republicans thinks keeping the government open is more important than defunding Planned Parenthood, 48-44; conservatives think this by 52-38.

Apparently Republican and conservative voters are capable of wanting Planned Parenthood defunded while simultaneously opposing a government shutdown to accomplish that goal. Crazy, huh?

This hints at the real target audience that those pushing for the use of government funding as leverage to defund the group are trying to please. If this polling is right, we may go through a protracted and destructive showdown — which, by the way, could be damaging even if a shutdown is averted at the last minute — even though only a hard-core minority of Republican and conservative voters want it.

Norman Ornstein has a good piece recapping the history that led us to this point. He argues that by casting virtually everything Obama tried to do as a radical threat to everything about this country that is recognizably American, GOP leaders helped create and nourish the forces that have since made it so hard for GOP lawmakers to embrace pragmatism and compromise where necessary. E.J. Dionne, meanwhile, notes that the feeding of those forces has made the conservative grassroots even less willing to accept the basic structural explanation for the GOP’s inability to roll back the hated Obama agenda and its reconfiguration of America, i.e., Republicans lack the votes to overcome Dem filibusters or Obama vetoes. As I argued the other day, those pushing for a shutdown fight are exploiting all of these things to great effect — and there may be no better manifestation of it than the spectacular success of Donald Trump’s candidacy.

It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that it’s very possible only a minority of Republican and conservative voters feels this way, or at least only a minority of them is angry enough about all of it to demand maximum confrontation this fall, the consequences be damned. If so, it’s a reminder of the striking degree to which that minority continues to set the GOP’s agenda.


* JEB DEFENDS ‘FREE STUFF’ COMMENT: The other day, Jeb Bush suggested that Dems buy black votes with “free stuff.” On Fox News Sunday, he tried to clarify:

“I think we need to make our case to African-American voters and all voters that an aspirational message…will allow people to rise up.  That’s what people want. They don’t want free stuff.  That was my whole point….This idea that you can regulate and tax and spend your way to prosperity has failed. We spend a trillion dollars a year on poverty programs.  And the net result is the percentage of people in poverty has remained the same. We should try something different, which is to give people the capacity to achieve earned success…”

All this really confirms is that Jeb Bush probably does believe that the Dem governing vision constitutes using government handouts to keep people trapped in dependency to capture and hold their votes.

* FIORINA URGES GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: On Meet the Press, GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was asked whether she thinks GOP leaders should force a government shutdown to try to defund Planned Parenthood. She said:

“I believe if the president of the United States and Democrats are willing to stand up and defend for what is roughly $500 million to $600 million line item in a budget, if they are willing to stand up and defend this practice and shut down the government over it, then let them explain it to the American people.”

Because the dumb talking point that it would really be Democrats who are shutting down the government worked so well every other time Republicans tried it. Oh, by the way, here’s what this talking point is really about.

* TRUMP SET TO ROLL OUT HIS TAX PLAN: It’s coming today:

Donald Trump is set to release a tax plan Monday that calls for major reductions in levies on middle-income and poor payers, while increasing taxes on the wealthy and reining in companies that pay less in taxes by moving their headquarters overseas. The plan will offer a “major tax reduction for almost all citizens” and help stimulate business in the U.S. again, the Republican candidate’s campaign said Sunday.

If his plan actually does increase the tax burden of top earners, that would make him a real outlier in the GOP field.

* TRUMP ATTACKS ‘FREE TRADE’: On CBS’ Face the Nation, Trump also attacked “free trade,” per the Post’s account:

Trump said the United States also must heavily tax imports, especially those from Mexico and Japan. He said the North American Free Trade Agreement has been “a disaster” and should be renegotiated….“We need fair trade, not free trade,” Trump said. “We need fair trade. It’s gotta be fair.”

As I’ve noted, if the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal is inked, you may see Trump demagogue it in a way that makes his GOP rivals (who support the TPP) more miserable than immigration has.

 * CARSON-MENTUM RAGES ACROSS THE LAND: The new NBC/WSJ poll released over the weekend finds Ben Carson has now surged into a neck-and-neck position with Donald Trump (20-21) among Republican voters nationally. Back in July, Carson had 10 percent in NBC polling.

The new poll was taken from September 20-24, just when the nation was first hearing Carson’s wisdom about why Islam is not consistent with the Constitution and why he wouldn’t want to see a Muslim president (comments that were delivered on September 20th). Apparently those sentiments didn’t damage Carson much with GOP voters.

* SAYING GOODBYE TO BOEHNER, WITHOUT TEARS: Paul Krugman recalls that John Boehner called for cutting government in the depths of the economic crisis, and sums up his legacy:

The Boehner era has been one in which Republicans have accepted no responsibility for helping to govern the country, in which they have opposed anything and everything the president proposes. What’s more, it has been an era of budget blackmail, in which threats that Republicans will shut down the government or push it into default unless they get their way have become standard operating procedure….don’t cry for (or with) Mr. Boehner; cry for America, which must find a way to live with a G.O.P. gone mad.

And things may only get worse, given that the deadlines for long term government funding and a debt ceiling hike later this year will come just as the GOP presidential primary is heating up.